Friday, February 24, 2017

Memory Quilt for Grandpa Wilbur

In sorting through my digital files (a sisyphean task if ever there was one) I found this folder of pictures I never blogged about, and it seemed like as good a time as any.

You may recollect that last year my Grandpa Wilbur turned 90, and I made him a small wall hanging.  Well for his 80th birthday (and the 80th birthday of my other grandpa) my mom, sister, and I made him a memory quilt.  We were all fairly beginner quilters then, so made some decisions we wouldn't make again, but it was a wonderful project and I think a meaningful one.  It's still hanging in his house.  Unfortunately, one of the beginner mistakes we made was not taking any pictures when the quilt was first made, so all I have are these pictures taken just a couple of years ago while the quilt was hanging in his somewhat dark hallway.  And of course as soon as you look at them you realize that we didn't put enough quilting over the photographs so they're sort of saggy.  You can get the idea anyway though.


In addition to the photos, we made a bunch of paper pieced and appliqued blocks representing things that my grandfather loved and spent time on, and interspersed them throughout the quilt.


These duck condos along the bottom are one of my favorite things.  Many years ago my grandparents owned a lovely place with ponds and grass where you could fish-by-the-inch.  It was the kind of place you took your kids so they could catch a fish or ride pedal boats.  There were hundreds of ducks that lived on the ponds and my grandpa built them a floating island with these small doghouse size buildings on them.  They really were painted pink with polka dots and had duck condos written on them.  The ducks loved them and always built nests and stuff inside.  So crazy.



 He always loved flying and making kites, thus the kite paper pieced block, and here you can see him flying a kite with my little sister when she was small.  He always used an electric drill to wind and unwind the kite string.


Tennis and fishing were his two other big hobbies, and he played until sometime in his early 80s.


Here he is with my Grandma for their engagement picture, unfortunately I can't find this picture or the digital copy anymore.  It's too bad because this year they are celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary!!  Happy anniversary Grandma and Grandpa!!


This one is lots of pictures with the grandkids, that bottom left one is a special picture with my great-grandpa as well!


It was a fun trip down memory lane to look through all these again.  Love you Grandpa!



Thursday, February 23, 2017

I like #7

Gosh I'm falling so behind!  First this post is late and then I realize I haven't posted anything else in weeks.  I have projects to share!  And thoughts!  Goodness knows I just need some time to write them down.  Oh My!

But, luckily there were lots of things to like this week.

First, I have to just share my weekly blooming flower.  My spiral begonia, which I at one point despaired of keeping alive, has made a bloom!!!  I'm so excited!  I thought this plant was so cool, I asked my friend to get me one, but it's been a bit touchy.  I was thrilled when it felt healthy enough to make a flower.  Even just a little one.  I've never grown begonias before.  Mike took the macro picture.  Anyone have any tips on growing begonias?  I still don't think it's what you would call healthy.




The next thing I like this week is the feeling of having completed the 10k with my sister!  I went very slowly (definitely slower than many of the power walkers), but I jogged the whole way.  My sister runs much faster than me, so she finished and then jogged back to re-jog the last mile with me.  But it was great to finish!  Another sticker for my calendar.  We're going to do another one in May, hopefully I'll be a little bit faster by then.


But the main thing I liked (loved) this week was having my sister and my niece and nephew up to visit.  They're 3.5 and almost 5, and are such a blast.  Constantly laughing and giggles and silliness make it really hard to stay depressed and cynical.  What a blessing they are to me!  We had a lot of fun hanging out and playing with them.  On Friday morning they woke me up around 5:45 so I went and curled up in their room while they started with their 100%-on-already morning fun.  I caught this cute shot of them playing pillow monster!


I also like doing crafts with the kids!  So fun to do low-pressure things that they enjoy.  Both kids got a kick out of this project my sister found on the internet somewhere.  It's fairy mud! It's made out of microwave-exploded Ivory soap, shredded toilet paper, water, and glitter.  The soap thing was especially cool, if you've never done it, it's pretty nifty.  Apparently it only works with ivory though.  After they made their fairy mud sculptures they covered them with treasures found around my studio and backyard.  All kinds of random things, including an empty shell casing that fell off my reloading area.  I love the sparkle and bright colors.  Unfortunately my sister "forgot" to take them home.  They were fun to make, but I'm not sure how long I'm obligated to keep them.  :) 



All in all a much more likeable week than others.  Linking up as always with LeeAnna!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

I Like #6

Welcome to another round of I Like!

1.  I like my family!  Last weekend I went up to the outskirts of Tulsa help my Aunt with a garage sale. She's downsizing and moving back towards home.  My Uncle is on a job site down in Midland, so she's on her own, but she and I and a bunch of her friends had a great (but exhausting!!) time!  I don't get up to see her as much as I'd like, so it was good to see her.  She goes to a fabulous little rural Methodist church and it was so fun to worship with her.  As you know I'm a big fan of choral music, especially all the traditional Anglican hymn tunes (many of which aren't really Anglican and are also in the Methodist hymnal), but we don't sing very many Gospel-style hymns in the Episcopal church.  Her church does though, and it was fun to get to sing a bunch of fun stuff with a little lilt!

2.  Discovering old family treasures! While going through stuff up at my aunt's she pointed out this pot that my mom gave her a long time ago.  This in an of itself isn't particularly strange, my mom is a potter by profession, and has had a studio pottery business since the early 80s, so most of us have pots from her.  But come to find out, this one was extra special!  When we flipped it over, we found the date, 10-11-78, and when I asked my mom she said that was from her very first pottery class, back long before she was making pottery professionally.  She doesn't have any pots from that era, and didn't know any were still around.  So cool to find it!  My aunt has had it almost 40 years, and she says it's always sat on this beautiful carved sideboard.  The sideboard key is taped into the pot lid so it won't get lost!  The sideboard itself has a family history,  my great great grandmother Kennedy was an artist who painted oils and ceramics and also carved furniture and this is one of her pieces.  Fun to hear the stories!





3.  Blooming flowers!  More blooming flowers this week!  Lately I'm on a roll with blooming flowers, keep your fingers crossed and I'll have something blooming most weeks.  That would be awesome.  Just now, my second Christmas cactus is blooming!  My big one is red-orange and usually blooms in the fall, but this one is blooming a bit now with these bright pink blossoms!  Love it!  Mike and I aren't big on valentine's day, but he did take a picture of this flower for me with his fancy camera (not this picture) and framed it for me, which I thought was very sweet!



4. Quilty traditions!  I've always been a crafty valentines person, and actually this year is the first year I didn't make valentines to send out.  Very sad actually.  But a few years ago, my mom decided that instead of making valentines for me and my sister, each year she'd make us a valentine's day quilt block, and one day we can put them all together into a quilt.  It really made my day when this one arrived.  Love you Mom!!


Thanks as always to LeeAnna for keeping us positive!


Monday, February 13, 2017

Dress-Up

I mentioned in some of my I like posts that I recently had to attend a black tie even for work. Since I inherited a bunch of fancy fabric from a friend of my mom (thanks Georgia!) I figured it was a great opportunity to make a dress. I picked This pattern because the princess seamed construction and silhouette is one I've made many times before and the asymmetry adds some interest.

It wasn't a hard pattern to sew, but it did take a while.  One thing I didn't think about is that because of the asymmetry, each pattern piece had to be cut out separately (i.e. not on the fold or on a doubled piece of fabric).  And the pattern did a terrible job explaining how to attach the lining to the outer part.  I've made lined dresses before but they always had sleeves, and the sleeveless dresses I've made previously had facings rather than linings.  In any case I finally found a youtube video (which of course I can't find now) that helped me figure it out.

I also wound up having to make a facing for the black skirt.  In small print on the pattern envelope it said "reverse side of overskirt shows" or something to that effect.  I didn't think much of it until after I'd completely finished an hemmed the overskirt.  I realized that because of the angle on the front (and back) of the black skirt, where the fabric falls into folds you could see the reverse of the fabric.  It was ugly, with seams and visible hem, and the off color that the back of velvet is.  It really made the whole thing look unacceptably crafty to my eyes.  There weren't any skirt facing pieces in the pattern, but I just made my own using the bottom of each skirt piece, so now the reverse side just looks like the front.  It was a lot of extra work the night before the event, but I think it was worth it.


I had a good time braiding up my hair (which is still pretty short for braiding, but I made it work), but sadly didn't get a very good picture.  It was pretty dark at the event and at my friends' house where we were getting ready.  We did have a good time at the dinner though; I talked more about that in my I like post a couple weeks back.  I am especially pleased with the invisible-ness of my invisible zipper- I've had trouble with those before, but this one went in very smoothly!






After scurrying around like a crazy person trying to finish the dress, I felt the need for something easy and low stress.  I've been wanting to make a sewing machine cover for my bernina embroidery machine for a while, but never got around to it.  I don't use it very often and it really should be covered up.  It's a really strange shape, but I pieced up some brightly colored quarter square triangles (hourglass blocks?) and then after some loose measurements came up with this.  It fits pretty well all things considered, and I love seeing the bright colors when I walk into my studio.



Have you done any clothes sewing lately?  I have a bunch of fabric, but I think this might be all the clothes sewing I do for a while!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

I like #5

Things I like this week!

1.  Meeting up with in-person friends as well as online ones!  Yesterday morning I got to have breakfast with my dear friend Linda, something we try to do as often as we can, and it was so wonderful to visit with her.  She's such a support for me.  We talk about all kinds of things, and our time is always over way sooner than it ought to be!

2.  More choral music!  This past week our church choir (from St. John's Norman) joined up with the choir from St. John's Oklahoma City to be the guest choir at an evensong service at St. Thomas More Catholic church on the OU campus.  We were invited to sing this service last year as well, and it's such fun to learn all the evensong music.  It's also fun to join with another choir, our group only has about 12 voices and St. John's OKC is only a bit bigger, but it works great to sing together.  This year we sang Charles Villiers Stanford's Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in C Major, Philip Wilby's If Ye Love Me and an arrangement of Psalm 84 written by one of the choristers from St. John's OKC (in addition to the other minor evensong music/chants).  I used to record choral music often, but haven't in the last four years or so, but this seemed like a good occasion to do so.  Here are a few of the pieces (apologies for the recording quality).  This is the first time I've embedded audio files, so I hope it works.


3. I like Astronomy Picture of the Day  This website has a new astronomy picture every day or sometimes an artist interpretation and it's a fabulous way to get a glimpse of our wider universe.  I keep thinking I'm going to make a quilt inspired by some of these photographs, but I've yet to get around to it.

4. I like "wildlife".  I live in an ordinary suburban neighborhood, but we're close to the edge of town, so just outside our neighborhood is more open farmland and larger properties, so occasionally we get interesting visitors.  This one wasn't particularly out of the ordinary, but it made me laugh.  Mike sent me of our backyard yesterday morning.  He recently hung a birdfeeder in an effort to attract birds to photograph.  Alas, so far all we've attracted are cute interlopers.  Not exactly what he was hoping for!


Hoping you're all keeping your chins up!  Thanks as always to LeeAnna for hosting!


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

I Like #4

I'm feeling pretty overwhelmed by things just now, as I'm sure many of you are, but chin up and turn away the negativity has to be the mantra.

So things I liked this week:

1. This home depot/Disney mashup video.  It's really charming and funny for anyone who likes Disney.  I'm totally a Disney Princess Superhero, like maybe a combination of Belle, Hermione, and the Scarlet Witch?  But I grew up in the 80s and 90s during the great disney revival so will always have a soft spot for Beauty and the Beast, the Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and the Lion King (in addition to the classics).



2. Dressing up.  Anyone who encountered me during real life for the last couple of weeks heard me freaking out about finishing my dress in time for a work related College of Medicine black-tie event.  It was the first one I'd ever had to go to and because I have inherited boxes and boxes of formal fabric I had to make a dress (that'll be it's own post at some point).  I've never been to formal things really, and my style leans toward the casual and eclectic (the more colors the better).  The event was a fairly ordinary awards dinner, it was fun to get dressed up and go.  It was held at the Cowboy Hall of Fame which has some really beautiful artwork.



It was also surprisingly good to hear about and from the two awardees this year.  I hadn't heard of them before, but I haven't been particularly involved in the College of Medicine until recently, so that's not surprising.  One awardee was Jeanne Hoffman Smith who was apparently a pioneer in mental health and social services in this area, and the other was Dr. Andy Sullivan, a highly regarded pediatric orthopedic surgeon.  He was one of the many dedicated first responders after the tragic Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 and actually performed an on-site amputation on a women trapped in the debris of the collapsed building, thus saving her life.

3.  This week I just finished another one of the Harry Dresden books by Jim Butcher.  I'm really enjoying them; they're urban fantasy novels about a Wizard Detective and his police officer sidekick/partner.  Lots of fun characters and charming writing, if you like light and witty fantasy, check them out.  I think it's better to listen to them in order as there are quite a few recurring characters, but each can stand alone.  I started with #1, but then skipped to #8 and #9 since that's what the library had.  For anyone out there who is a Buffy/Joss Whedon fan, the audiobooks are narrated by Spike.  Alas, the narration is great, but he doesn't sound like Spike, something I was sad about in the beginning.

4. I'm still liking blooming flowers; my Christmas cactus is done, but my poinsettia is still going strong.  I rescued it from church after 12th night, and it was pretty droopy after the whole Christmas season, but I've transplanted it and it perked back up.  I'm determined to keep it alive all year, but who knows how that will go!

5.  I love seeing everyone's posts from the women's marches and protests.  It was wonderful to see (and continue to see) my instagram feed and blogs filled with pink hats and kind, compassionate women standing up for things that are important to them.  

Thanks to LeeAnna for hosting I Like Thursdays!  Keep postive everybody!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

I like #3

Last week I was hard pressed to come up with things I liked, but on Thursday afternoon just a couple of hours after publishing last week's post, several things popped into mind, due largely to conversations with other bloggers about their I likes!  So...

1. I like other bloggers!  I'm pretty antisocial in general, preferring often to stay in or hang out with just a couple close friends, but I love the interaction with other bloggers.  Everyone has something fun or thoughtful to say and it's fabulous to meet/interact with people who have both similar and different experiences to you!

2. I like storybooks.  I really like almost all kinds of books, but for this week I'll stick with story books.  We were always a big reading family and my mom kept lots and lots of our books.  Apart from a few favorites of mine, most of them now reside with my sister since she has kids.  I love reading to them, and Anna has just learned to read so now I get to hear her read back to me whenever I visit.  *swoon*  My great-grandmother was a nursery school teacher in the 1920s and 1930s and we've also been lucky to inherit many of her story books.  One of my favorites is A House is a House for Me.  It's a rhyming read-aloud story full of absolutely fabulous illustrations of all sorts of houses. In the last section it goes a little abstract and starts making you think about all kinds of things!



3. I like Judith Roderick!  She's an art quilter from New Mexico who I know through the SAQA New Mexico group.  She is a professional silk painter, and for the last many years she's used her beautiful silk paintings to make quilts, many of which are embellished with buttons and other things.  I really love her birds, especially this one and this one and this one She's also a lovely lady, lots of fun to be around.

4.  I like technology.  Some of my favorite things about it are really basic-  for example I really love being able to have a shared grocery list with my partner, and I really love being able to set reminders for things I'd likely otherwise forget.  I love having my hands free bluetooth in my car.  I have pretty bad cell reception in my studio but I love being able to talk to my mom on my morning commute.  I love audiobooks and podcasts, both of which are so much easier with my phone.  Of course, like most people, sometimes it feels like a struggle to find a balance, but I definitely come down in favor!

5. I like brightly colored hair!  Last summer I dyed the under half of my hair bright pink.  I love the color peeking out and the fact depending on how I wear it it can look like a whole pink head or completely "normal".   After initially doing it at the salon, I had been touching it up myself which though effective was messy and the results always wound up a bit splotchy.  Earlier this week I went back to the salon to have it re-done, this time in alternating swaths of pink and purple, and it's so fun not to have yucky roots or splotches anymore!


Thanks as always to LeeAnna for keeping us going with these posts!



Friday, January 20, 2017

New Quilt: Conformational Change

This was actually my last quilt of 2016, but I'm just now getting around to blogging about it now.  I finished it over the holiday break at my mother's and was racing against time as it was for a show entry due January 7th.   The show is called Structures and is put on by SAQA NM.  A lot of people are doing buildings, but I think there are also lots of botanical structures and things like that.  As a scientist, it seemed like a great time to do something about microscopic structure.  I'd already done a cell structure quilt, and it wasn't eligible for this show, so I thought I'd do something about protein structure.

For those who don't know, after being made proteins fold into a distinct 3D structure which depends on where they are inside (or outside) the cell, what their purpose is, and what kind of amino acid sequence they have.  This protein conformation is critical for the function of the protein, and tons of biochemical processes in the body are driven by changes in protein structure, a process called conformational change.  This conformational change can be initiated by all kinds of stimuli, and the change itself is usually very subtle but sufficient to induce the next step of cellular signaling.  Cool techniques, especially X-ray crystallography, have allowed scientists to measure and define these structures in many cases, really furthering our understanding of basic cell biology and molecular basis of disease.

As a vision researcher, I picked a retinal protein called rhodopsin.  Rhodopsin undergoes conformational change in response to light and is the protein that starts the signaling cascade that leads to vision.  My original idea for my quilt was to use very light colors and ethereal fabrics to make something very abstract and graphic.  Not until after I finished the whole thing and it turned out very strange did it occur to me that abstract and graphic don't really go well with light and ethereal, but alas.

Anyhow, I started by cutting shapes representing the seven transmembrane domains of rhodopsin in both it's inactive (left) and active (right) conformations out of different colors of fusible-backed organza.  I then fused them down to a giant piece of shimmery white organza and layered for quilting.  Perhaps you can see on the right side an extra light pink piece on the top middle.  When rhodopsin undergoes conformational change in response to light, a new protein called transducin (represented by the light pink piece) is able to bind, thus initiating signal transduction.

My original colors of organza, though blue, were way too light, so I wound up having to paint them before fusing down.  Then I discovered that not all polyester organza is created equal and managed to melt through a bunch of sections down to the batting and had to figure out how to patch them.



I decided to quilt straight lines in multiple light colors radiating out from each transmembrane segment to emphasize the graphic nature and the slight differences in the angle/position of each segment in the active/inactive conformation.  Across the middle I quilted a representation of the lipid bilayer that makes up the cell membrane.  I think the strong horizontal at least gives the piece a little bit of focal point.  Finally, I bound it with a wide binding of light blue organza.  Technically speaking, this was a huge pain in the neck, but I wanted a see-through effect so you could see the quilting through the binding.

Because there's no opaque fabric on the top, just the shimmery organza, you can see the batting through the quilt. In the picture below, I'd finished all the straight line quilting and decided to wet/block before doing the background.  It looks sort of dark and grayish because when it's all wet, the green fabric I used for the backing shows through a bit.





As it turns out, this wound up being a bear to photograph as well.  My dad and Mike both struggled with it, the shiny organza made light reflect weirdly when using his standard flash set up to get even lighting, then when he turned them off even the slightest unevenness in room lighting was reflected in weird shadows on the quilts.  Finally, most of the pictures were either really greyish in cast or looked washed out (like below).  Finally I decided it might go a bit better if I put it on a black background and moved it to a slightly different location.  I'm so grateful for all the time they spent trying to get good pictures!


Conformational Change, c. 2016 Shannon Conley, 39" x 43"






This isn't one of my favorite quilts, largely I think, due to some unresolved design issues in my head, but it finished ok and I hope it gets into the show!

What do you guys do when you have pieces which are unsatisfying?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

I like #2

This has been a pretty overwhelming week for me but I'm determined to keep liking things!  Practice makes perfect I think.  So without further ado:

1. I like (loooove) my dogs.  Anyone who follows me on instagram (im_working_on_a_project) knows that my feed is about half dogs and half quilts.  Right now we have three all rescues; a small grouchy shih tsu named Missy, a pitbull mix named Bentley, and a chihuahua/heeler/corgi mix named Bullett.  Missy is a daddy's dog- if he's around she will not tolerate anyone else.  You can see her barking madly because I got too close to the chair they were sitting in.  As soon as he leaves, she runs all around the house looking for him, then she comes and makes friends and wants to sit in your lap.  She is, incidentally, the only dog I've ever known who doesn't like to be petted.  Strange, but we love her all the same.




Bentley is large and drooly and is a very people dog, unless they're trying to come in through the front door.  If we come through the back door or the garage it's no problem, but anyone coming through the front door is subject to crazy barking.  He firmly believes he's a lap dog, and loves to snuggle.

A photo posted by Shannon Conley (@im_working_on_a_project) on



Bullett is smaller and cuddly; sadly he's often pushed out of the way by Bentley in the demand for loves.  He especially likes to have his belly scratched and to sit on top of the sofa back.  Sadly he has a penchant for trashcans so if ever one is left accessible you'll come home to garbage strewn everywhere.

They all love to sit on the giant poof in my studio (which is not always quite this messy), and it's always a race to see who gets there first.



Coming home to them just make everything so much better, provided you can get through the door without tripping over them.

2.  I like beading.  I don't do a whole lot of it, but right now I'm having a blast picking out beads for the eyes on my current mammal quilt.  Unfortunately a lot of my favorite beads seem to be a bit big, but I'm determined to use my stash and not buy new ones.  Let me know which beads you like best for the bobcat eyes!



3. I like digital design.  I do a lot of my quilt designing in Adobe Illustrator and sometimes Adobe Photoshop.  I also really enjoy doing print materials like signage/postcards for quilt shows, and have been having a good time learning Adobe InDesign.

4.  I love handwriting, calligraphy, typography, and hand lettering including that done with new (digital approaches).  I'm always exploring ways to put text in my quilts.  Some of my favorite instagram accounts fall into this category.




A photo posted by Type Gang (@type.gang) on




What have you been liking this week?


Friday, January 13, 2017

Portrait of the Kids Part 2

Last time I showed how I painted the flowers and kids in my new portrait quilt, and today I wanted to talk about how I finished it.  Unfortunately, my in-process picture taking really slacked off after the painting steps.

The bottom half of the background started with a piece of fabric that was some sort of cotton poly blend thing with light brown specks that was masquerading as linen.  I drew the porch lines with brown sharpie, heat set, and then mixed up some watery grey paint and painted over them, so the cracks wouldn't look so much like harsh lines.

The shadows are all done using layer after layer of painted and cut organza.  The organza was really shifty (of course) and it was really a mess trying to line everything up enough to get it all lightly glued down.  The top half background started with a yellow piece of cotton over which I layered several pieces of light blue organza to give a bit of depth.  I wasn't sure what I wanted in the background, the original picture was completely full of bushes all the way around the whole picture, and I knew I didn't want that.  I started with some light green tree shapes cut out of organza which helped but still was fairly boring.


Next I cut out a bunch of leaves and stems out of organza and tulle and layered them on along with another layer of light blue to cover it all up.  I liked that quite a bit better, but the transition from the top to the bottom half still felt a bit abrupt.  I finally decided to insert a piece of brown organza and quilt a little wall right at the edge of the porch.  I don't have a picture of that, but you can see it in the final pictures.  One of the interesting things you may notice about the above and below pictures is that the dark sides of the flowerpot switched.  In the original images the profusion of bushes made light and shadows come from all over the place.  But I realized once I had this assembled that in the pared down version the light was mainly coming from the left, so the dark/light sides of the flower pots needed to be flipped. I couldn't just turn them over, but I did wind up just painting some light and dark paint over each one.



After quilting the whole thing I had to decide how much to crop it.  My mom and I discussed it back and forth for a while but finally decided to crop a fair amount so that the kids were really front and center.  There was no need for so much empty sky and porch.  But after that was done, it felt a little small so I decided to do a portrait finish.  I've done this with several of my pieces now and I like the framing effect it gives without feeling like a traditional border on a contemporary piece.  Of course it does mean quilting a whole second quilt, but for something small like this it goes pretty quickly.  I auditioned several colors, but decided I liked the plain red best, so I quilted it to echo whatever was going on in the nearby parts of the main quilt.  As a final step I put a bit of white paint on the bubble wrap to give it some extra dimension.




And here it is all finished.  I gave it my sister for Christmas.  She really liked it and was very surprised, so I think my mission was accomplished.  It was so wonderful to be able to surprise her!

4th of July 2015, c. 2016 Shannon Conley, 31" x 35"






Have you ever done portrait quilts?  I think this one turned out pretty well, especially since I didn't have to do faces!  Thanks to Mike for taking all the final pictures.